Dozens of Catholic professors are pressuring House Speaker John Boehner to back off proposed cuts to programs for the poor and elderly, accusing the Catholic lawmaker of diverging from the tenets of his faith ahead of his commencement address at a top Catholic university.

The professors sent a scathing letter to the speaker ahead of his scheduled address Saturday at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. They focused on the House GOP-crafted 2012 budget, claiming it "guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society." Citing changes to Medicare and Medicaid, as well as cuts to food stamps and programs for pregnant women, the professors from Catholic University and other schools accused Boehner of imperiling programs for the poor.

They wrote that it is his "moral duty" to prioritize those programs going forward and said they hope his visit to CUA will "reawaken" his familiarity with Catholic teachings.

"Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church's most ancient moral teachings," they wrote. "From the apostles to the present, the magisterium of the church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress."

In announcing Boehner's address last month, the main office at Catholic University praised him as a "strong supporter of Catholic education" in Washington, D.C. The university plans to award him an honorary Doctor of Laws at the ceremony.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, asked about the professors' letter, stressed that the speaker would not be giving a political speech.

"The speaker will be delivering a personal, non-political message at the Catholic University of America that he hopes will speak to all members of the graduating class, regardless of their backgrounds or affiliations," Steel said in an email. "He is deeply honored to have been invited by CUA to address the school's graduating class, and is looking forward to receiving an honorary degree from the only Catholic college in our country that is chartered by Catholic bishops."